National "Citizens" Coalition II
No, I'm afraid they aren't suggesting bringing their salaries down, because that would prevent us from attracting the "best and the brightest" (which oddly enough includes David Emerson). The NCC is (of course) going after recent changes to the Canada Elections Act that attempt to democratize the process of running for office by providing a quarterly allowance to official political parties that win at least 2% of the popular vote in the previous election.
In the parlance of the NCC's chillingly-titled Agenda for Canada, the Canadian public is being forced to support political parties against their will. While the thought that some of my tax dollars is being spent on the Conservative party campaign does raise the bile a little, the fact that all parties, including the Green Party, get some money to make their platforms known is on the whole positive.
Elections are won and lost in large part on which party can best mobilize the largest share of the electorate. This means money - money for offices, staff, travel, and increasingly - advertising. Advertising has become by far the greatest cost that any party carries during a national election campaign. No matter how noble the ideals behind a political party, if it does not have sufficient funds to get the platform in the face of the voter, there is very little chance that they will get the vote. The financing laws in the Canada Elections Act were put there to make it possible for smaller parties to receive some funding in the hopes that their ideas might be presented more fairly to the public. Money does not buy votes, but a lack of money denies them.
Naturally, in the current system some parties will be richer than others - there is no limit to the amount of money that a party can spend for instance, so the playing field is far from level. That is always going to be the case in a system in which political parties are allowed to solicit the public for funding. Larger parties will have more cash, as will parties that manage to tap donors that themselves have more cash. The system is still stacked in favour of the larger, business-friendly parties; these campaign financing laws have a long way to go before an actual fair vote becomes possible - but they are a start.
This will likely not be an issue in a minority parliament; I mention it mainly to highlight the tone of the National Citizen's Coalition. Whether the Conservative Party acts on this in the future will tell us a lot about whether it actually believes any of its talk about "grassroots democracy" - because that is what these laws are really all about. Naturally, the Conservative Party talk about "grassroots" is bullshit - they are as deeply-indebted to corporate Canada as the Liberals. It's just that "grassroot" talk has gotten them quite a long ways, and may carry them as far as it has the Republican Party to the south.
And that's really the yardstick, isn't it?